Early recovery is full of serious challenges. Just in case the obstacle course of post-acute withdrawal isn’t enough, let’s add in the loss of one’s primary method of coping with the world, along with the gift of experiencing—in all their glorious undiluted intensity—the uncomfortable feeling states that were previously blocked out, numbed, sanded down, and otherwise kept at a distance by using. Fortunately, feeling good is not a prerequisite for recovery. Abstinence is instrumental to healing the neurological impacts of addiction. It took around seven to eight months after my last use of drugs for the worst parts of my post-acute withdrawal to run their course. With the aid of neuroplasticity, the human brain has remarkable abilities to heal. Research using brain scans indicates that with about one year of abstinence, noticeable healing of the adverse changes caused by active addiction has taken place,10 and with five years of abstinence, the brain often begins to resemble that of a person who has never used alcohol or other drugs. This notwithstanding, some addiction-caused changes will remain. The brain’s reward center and the mesolimbic dopamine system that feeds it are forever altered. Ongoing treatment or counseling for the individual and the family is also vital for successful recovery. The unfortunate statistical reality is that many long-standing marriages and other primary relationships don’t survive the first year after one partner enters recovery subsequent to years of active addiction. Over time these relationships progressively adjust to the presence of active addiction, establishing a certain equilibrium. However inherently healthy recovery may be, it represents a dramatic change that throws this equilibrium completely out of balance. The required adjustments in relationship dynamics are severe, often exceeding the capacity and/or willingness of one if not both partners, regardless of how well-intentioned they may be. Often this separation can spawn unsuspected relapse even if the recovering addict has good intentions. Treatment centers with family programs that operate in conjunction with client treatment are very instrumental not only for ensuring long-term-recovery, but also for preserving existing relationships between the client and their loved ones. This blog post is an excerpt from Some Assembly Required – A Balanced Approach to Recovery from Addiction and Chronic Pain by By Dan Mager, MSW; Published by Central Recovery Press (CRP).